How New Technologies Help Keep Brand Planning Simple
“Every brand manager knows that brand planning is an important process, but often they feel they’re filling in meaningless slides that are randomly sequenced,” Kohlstaedt says. “This leads them to focus on the wrong questions: the ‘how’ of filling in brand plans, rather than the ‘what’ of their strategy.”
Kohlstaedt, who has served as a global brand director himself, knows these pain points all too well: “Brand leaders are very busy and carry a lot of responsibility. There is no room for redundant or useless exercises done for the sake of making a slide deck.”
Pharma has transformed much of its business to fit today’s digital demands. Kohlstaedt argues that brand planning should do the same. With the right technology – built specifically for the needs of brand teams as they develop impactful strategies – brand leaders can use the most complete, up-to-date data to hone their brand storytelling and position their products for success.
“The brand plan should tell a concise story, with one element building on the next to better understand business challenges and help inform the right decisions,” Kohlstaedt says. “This is where technology comes into the game.”
Why the Brand Planning Status Quo Isn’t Serving Pharma
Brand planning, though it involves cross-functional teams and requires several different types of data, is a straightforward process – or at least it should be. Teams analyse information to guide strategic decisions that impact allocation and tactics for the year ahead. But today’s standard procedure for developing a plan adds unnecessary roadblocks.
“It’s actually quite simple to come up with a good brand plan,” Kohlstaedt says, “but the complexity in slide templates makes things difficult.”
There are three key challenges that slide-based brand planning introduce. One is the version control issues that inevitably arise when working in static documents. A marketing team may update information in their slides one day, but their medical colleagues won’t get to theirs until next week. How can local and global leaders know which is the latest version of the file from which to evaluate tactics and inform their decisions?
Secondly, teams face challenges when manoeuvring the complex taxonomy of brand planning terms and criteria often included in slide templates. These require users to input information that meets a variety of different fields – with little context on the value of the exercise. Kohlstaedt recalls a brand plan template he reviewed for a large pharma company which contained ‘Strategic Imperatives’, ‘Strategic Options’, ‘Business Issues’, ‘Moments-that-Matter’, ‘Growth Opportunities’, ‘Strategic Drivers/Barriers’, and ‘SWOT’ as necessary items.
“It’s difficult to cater to all these elements; they make the exercise complex without adding value,” Kohlstaedt says.
Instead, teams can narrow their brand planning focus to two make-or-break elements: their brand’s leverage points and the drivers of or barriers to success. Leverage points are the moments in a customer journey that prevent patients from getting the right treatment, which, once addressed, can eventually be harnessed as competitive differentiators. The drivers of/barriers to success are the environmental or competitive elements that either hinder or promote your brand’s success.
“Once you have this information, you’re in a position to make some solid decisions,” Kohlstaedt says.
Kohlstaedt offers a helpful analogy: “Imagine you wanted to write a menu for a restaurant, but, instead of naming the dishes on the menu, you write out the recipe for each dish. The guest only needs to know what they can order.” He argues that brand planning follows the same model.
“When a brand team presents their plan, it doesn’t need to show all the work that went into its development,” Kohlstaedt says. “The stakeholder should see that the brand team did the work to come to a good decision, but no senior manager will ever check all the details.”
Brand Planning Technology Moves Teams From Confusion to Concrete Tactics
Today’s platform technologies outstrip PowerPoint as a brand planning tool.
“Without being too self-confident, I think one of the biggest trends in brand planning in the next five years will be a move away from PowerPoint,” Kohlstaedt predicts. “Imagine a pharma company using Excel as their Customer Relationship Management system today? It wouldn’t happen.”
Brand planning platforms like PurpleLeaf Strategy’s Enavia automate and streamline the most complex parts of brand planning by putting all information, analytics, and collaboration into one cloud-based system.
In establishing a database to store all brand information, these technologies eliminate the version control issues teams face with PowerPoint as their main tool. This means all colleagues work from a single source of truth with the latest, most complete brand data at their fingertips. Similarly, cloud-based technologies ensure global-to-local consistency of information. Local teams can share information in a consistent manner, and global teams can review progress in automatically generated dashboards.
Crucially, brand planning platforms also enable teams to collaborate in real time, working cross-functionally to input and assess brand data efficiently – and attach budget to each KPI in a brand plan.
Kohlstaedt sees the promise in brand planning technology to phase out legacy methods and improve strategic efforts. With wider adoption across the pharma industry, he predicts “PowerPoint will be reduced to its core strength: presentations.”
Optimising Brand Planning With Deeper Market Insights
A robust database will also hold information on a brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to success – known as a SWOT analysis – relative to its competition. Finally, brand teams can visualise the ways patients interact with the healthcare system to learn about current trends in patient care, and why certain therapies or interventions are used over others.
With a strong foundation of data, accessible to relevant colleagues across the organisation – brand teams can unlock even more insights that shape the future of their brand.
Next Steps Towards a Simpler Future for Brand Planning
The first step to brand planning’s continued move into the modern era, Kohlstaedt continues, is for brand teams to move all brand planning data out of closed files and into a database structure. While this won’t solve all of pharma’s brand planning data challenges, it will help ensure brand strategy data is useful and impactful over time as teams continue to build and revise their market approaches.
“Any AI or machine learning dream for strategic decision-making only becomes true when we move from the closed container of PowerPoint to a database-driven system,” Kohlstaedt says.
Think, for example, of a company with 100 country affiliates, all working on brand plans for 20 products over five years. If they use a database system to collect and analyse this data, they may have 10,000 data points that AI can crawl to draw out a brand’s success drivers automatically – and at no extra cost or effort. “This might not sound like a lot, but how large is our database today when only using PowerPoint for brand planning? Zero.”
This is something Kohlstaedt and PurpleLeaf Strategy are working to investigate; they have a research grant from the German government to assess how to utilise brand plan data over time and recognise patterns in strategic and tactical decision-making.
With pharma’s next steps identified to help advance brand planning’s digital transformation, Kohlstaedt offers words of advice for those embarking on a brand planning project: “Keep things simple, and don’t create complexity artificially. This will help your brand teams make better decisions.”